Since I have returned to One Foot In Reality, I have decided to clean-up, update and re-publish this series, there were a few rough spots, things left out and I thought it would be nice to share this old fart's story of running over the years on #Throwback Thursdays.
Yeah, this story and its other posts tell the story of the 40 plus years it took to make me into the runner I am now.
This post will be about
2011 to 2016 - Life After Teaching
Yeah, life is good. I have finally accepted who I am.
Damn, it took me long enough, but I am comfortable in my skin.
Oh, I still have a few warts, a lot more gray hairs and too many wrinkles, along with a bunch of baggage that will never go away, but it is all a part of the person I have become.
I am happy with that person and yes, as they say "life is good"...
butt (I know), it was not all peaches and cream or something that I did easily or just happened.
It was hard, damned hard!
To look honestly at yourself and attempt to make the changes necessary in your life to be the kind of person that you can look in the mirror and know that you are working to be something better than you had been before, takes work and being willing to see things, even those things you don't want to see.
You see, when I had my knee operated on, I was over 200 pounds at 5'7" (lots of flubber), stressed out to the max all the time, frustrated because I didn't seem to be helping the students or not doing enough to teach them to help themselves. Nothing seemed to be working and it was making me grow old before my time.
I felt 80 going on 55.
I needed a break to regain myself.
Something that profound doesn't happen overnight and to be honest I am still on that journey, just a lot further down the road.
Yes, I took the road less traveled and it did make all the difference.
I walked away from something that I was very good at and respected by most of my peers, a profession that I could have stayed in.
Instead I turned my back on it all and walked away into the great unknown.
To be honest I didn't really have a choice...I saw the writing on the wall and didn't want to end up 100 pounds overweight, on a cupful of prescription pills daily, stressed out and suddenly having a heart attack or finally retiring to just waiting on the couch to die.
That was my future if I had remained a teacher and I chose a different future.
With Mary's support - she saw the same thing, I had a gray pallor about me, when I left teaching in June 2011.
Getting my health back
Health is not only physical health, it is also your mental health - sometimes we forget that and focus too much on the external.
I needed to work on both.
The physical part was the easiest part, my knee was getting better - painful but healing, I could exercise again and I did. I ran when I could, split wood, did stuff around the house, walked - holy crap did Bennie and I walk and walk and walk.
It also meant that I had to watch what I shoved down the pie-hole. Not as much of the junk food, soda and other crap, I started to eat pretty much 80/20 and by the end of the year 30 pounds or so were history.
Mentally, it was hard at first, I had become too associated with being a teacher, that it had become who I was and I had lost Harold. I was attempting to be too many things to too many people and ended up not being able to be true to myself. That first 2-3 months I did a lot of questioning, exploring and trying to figure out what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be.
When it came time for school to re-open, I didn't miss it at all and that is when I knew that I had made the correct choice. It was also then that I started to see things more positively.
I hadn't realized how negative I had become.
Blogging and running brought me out of my funk. When I actually started to run seriously again in October 2011, I was ready to write about it too and boy did I ever.
I recently got a chance to see how much, while I was moving some of my old posts back to One Foot In Reality. I wrote mostly about my daily runs and struggles to keep running, but also about things I had learned about being a runner over the past 40 years.=
It was slow, excruciating progress, but I could see the progress I was making by looking back at my blog and it encouraged me to keep moving forward and to continue writing about it.
2012 - Pro Runblogger
I ran in my first race in 6 years overcoming both inertia and my race anxiety. The Central Maine Striders January Thaw 4.5 Mile Race over in Belgrade. There I met a couple of other runbloggers, David of Maine Running Photos and members of Central Maine Striders running club.
About April - you know after watching the Boston Marathon again, I got excited about doing a marathon. However, I also knew that there is now way that I would be ready to run one in 2012, the knee was coming along nicely, but not that nicely. So I got this hair brained idea to do the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon.
If I ran well running the MCM would also give me a chance to qualify for that Boston Marathon dream of mine - I just needed to run a 3:40 marathon to qualify - yeah just a 3:40 marathon for a guy closer to 60 than 50.
However, it was such a great storyline that out of the blue I got an email and then a job offer to write about Health and my journey to the MCM for Anthem's Real Health Blog. I was also going to be paid to do it - way cool.
So I ventured into the deep end of the world of professional runblogging and kept writing on my little blog about how I was doing chasing that marathon dream.
The summer of 2012 got to go out to Minnesota, see my girls and the grandkids and even got to run with my son-in-law for the first time - if he ever got serious about running with those damn long legs of his - he could be a very, very tough runner with a hockey goalie's mentality. I have feeling that in a few years, my crown as the best runner in the family will be seriously challenged by those grandkids of mine. :-)
No it is not my place to put their photos online. Katie and Nate did good on them and they are cute as buttons.
I ran in several races that year, continued to loose lot of weight, even got to run in Central Park, but the biggest highlight was being chosen as a featured blogger at the inaugural Runner's World Festival.
I met a lot of people, finished second in the 5K in my Age Group, set a PR in the half marathon, learned a lot and unfortunately, didn't read some of the offers/signs correctly and missed out on several great opportunities to move myself further forward in the RunBlogger niche. I never was too good at grabbing opportunities when they smack me upside of the head.
It also exposed me to the darker sides of writing and running as a blogger, the "who are you attitude?" from some of the professional writers bothered me and made me wonder if they were right. Bloggers do have to jump over that bar to be taken seriously and to be honest I just kind of cruised along the edges and never crossed to being a totally dedicated writer. Which looking back, I kind of wonder why not, but it is what it is. Maybe I was too afraid that I might have been successful, yeah there is more truth to that statement than I want to admit.
2013 - Injuries and Reality
The Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 made me sad, mad and even more determined to run Marine Corps that fall - My wife asked me if running MCM was worth dying for. Without too much hesitation I said something along the lines of "I have to run it, I can't let the bastards win".
Yep, this video clip said what many of us were feeling and in support of what happened many of us went down to a Boston Strong run on the Rail Trail in Gardiner.
It was a sad time, but also a time where the running community and others came to together in ways we haven't in many, many years.
My training was going great until I did something stupid in training, run over 30 miles in 3 days in new shoes (pretty minimal ones) and injured my right hip.
Then when I was just about healed and getting ready to resume my marathon training, I got caught up in running a fast 5K at the end of May. I was not ready or in shape to run that fast and I partially tore my left Achilles Tendon
This injury while not serious in the overall scheme of things, but it caused me to not be able to train for the MCM and as a result my pro runblogger career hurtled downhill from there. The great story was gone and I was not good enough to survive without the great story.
I walked away from pro runblogging later that summer and turned the corner to get back to my roots.
During my injury I had been helping out as a volunteer at the newly established Quarry Road Trail Series. I got to meet a lot of the local runners and had a lot of fun taking photos, making new friends and beginning to run (slowly) again.
Although I ran a couple of decent races that fall, I didn't have confidence in being able to run faster, because I was still afraid that I reinjure that leg.
Finally, in 2014 I accepted that I was retired and worked more at getting myself back to being the runner that I always thought that I could be, but only as a 5-10K runner. The spring started out pretty good, but then I screwed up my left hamstring at the end of April and it bothered me almost the entire summer (and still does to a certain extent).
It was also when I started to run with my second favorite running partner - Bennie.
He has been very good for me and I have run more consistently than I have in a long because he was always ready to get out there and run. Although this year, I think he is getting older and might be a little older than the vet thinks and all the tick bites he has had over the years are starting to catch up with him.
Which is making me so sad, but I will run however far he wants to run and for as long as he want to keep doing it. It is just now that I have to keep a closer eye on how he is doing during our runs and whether he is still playing or being tugged along.
That fall I started to run a bit faster and even won my first long distance race ever - at the Thomas College 5K - as they say you can only race against the runners that show up, but a win is a win and I gotta say it is one of my bigger thrills in running, even though it was just a small local race.
I am not a fan of running in races with lots of people or having to travel great distances to get in a run. No I would rather run in a nice local race, have fun, know some/most of the people involved and be relaxed about my running. It keeps my age-old battle with race anxiety at lower levels and allows me to enjoy running more.
2015 - Focusing On Strenghts and Letting Go
Then during the 2015 Boston Marathon, I got the marathon fever again and shouted to the world that I was going to work to qualify for Boston for 2017. Yeah right, reality gobsmacked me hard upside the head and by the end of June 2015, I realized that ain't no way in hell I am going to finish marathon training at a BQ pace and still be in one piece for October.
I finally realized, that I am a 5K or shorter specialist, who might dabble with a 10K or run, not race a half marathon, but that the full marathon at a BQ pace is something my body is not able to hold together to do. I have accepted that my chances of running a Boston qualifying time and then running Boston are pretty much over.
Oh, I know that the dream is still there, but that is all that it is - a dream.
So I have stayed with 5K races and while I haven't gotten close to that other goal of mine that sub 20:00 minute 5K, I am still able to get around 22:00 pretty regularly and even break though into the 21:00's every once in a while.
I was selected to be a member of the Pearl Izumi Run Champions Team for 2016 and yes I am proud to be a part of it. Even so I do not run exclusively in PI's if a certain style of their's does not work as well as a different brand does - whatever I use in today's world has to work for me or else I refuse to run in them, no matter what the brand is or whether I buy them or are provided them as a sample. If brands ain't onboard with that, well that is the way it is going to be for me.
Yeah, honest and blunt, not always what people want to hear, but I am happy with it and that is all that counts.
The reality is that
I am happy with the direction my running is going today, yes it still frustrates the hell out of me when I push hard and it feels like I am using sub 6:00 minute pace effort and that effort is now over 7:00 minute pace.
Age is catching up to me, but I will continue to make him work to finally catch me and take away all of my speed. Now I run less to compete with the front of the pack and compete more with myself and as my header says - the way that I used to be - ain't that the truth.
Although, I still don't like to be passed and there are more than a few in my age group or older who are faster than I am and if I am in a race with that I try to keep in sight or make them work a little extra harder to pass me.
Yeah my life is pretty damn good and I know that I am becoming happier with my running with each passing year, even if I am slower, a lot slower than I used to be and while running up hills feels like there is an elephant hitching a ride up them on my back at times. I am still pretty happy with my progress at almost 59 years on this planet.
I don't know where I would have been without running since 2011. It is a part of who I am and who I will be, that has shown me how to become a better person inspite or despite the many injuries and setbacks I have had as a runner over that time.
There are you proud of me? I didn't talk about running shoes at all during this post - at least not too much. Maybe I am finally getting over being a running shoe whore and learning to use what actually works for me instead of having to always have the newest and greatest shoes to see if they are worth the hype. :-)
But really, running shoes were an important part of these years and were part of the journey that I have written enough about in other posts, that I didn't feel the need to write about them too much here.
So yeah, Life is good and I hope it only keeps getting better.
Oh yeah, I have a race tomorrow and guess what - I am looking forward to going, even though they are expecting over 600 runners and more walkers - now that is a huge change :-) and I must say for the better.
Finally, a big thank you and I love you Mary.
There has been so much else that I could have written about during this post, but I didn't want to turn it into a small book, so here is where I will end it.
Thank you for reading the series and I hope you understand a little more about the old fart who keeps writing about his boring running or what he thinks is the next great running shoe.
Yeah, I took the path less traveled and it did make all the difference.
Life is good.